Immunisation record fees 'stupid': Minister
The Minister of Education, Sports and Culture, Loau Keneti Sio, says charging parents $40 fees to access their children's immunisation records is ridiculous.
He also described the decision as a backwards step for the Government's immunisation campaign.
Loau's opinion was sought after parents complained they faced difficulty meeting a new legal requirement that proof of immunisation records be provided before children are allowed to be enrolled in school this year.
“Prior to the measles epidemic, some mothers neglected the importance of keeping immunisation booklets; that mindset has changed, given the circumstance and levying a fee will only discourage parents,” Loau said.
“It is stupid to put such a fee in place".
New legislation which took effect on January 1 this year requires every child in Samoa to be vaccinated and provide vaccine records at the point of enrolling in school.
But parents who require new copies of their children's immunisation records are facing a $40 processing fee from the Ministry of Health.
On Friday many of them complained about lengthy delays in obtaining the booklets.
Loau said families with more than five school-aged children needing replacement booklets would be facing expenses that could come at the cost of educational supplies or basic necessities.
“That’s $200 tala," he said. "And you tell me, will parents spend that amount to pay for immunization cards; that can go to purchase for the school supplies for the students?
“If we impose these fees this will discourage parents and while other parents can afford it, low income families cannot fork up $40 [which usually will] go to their case of chicken for the week."
Under the Infants Amendment Bill (No.2) 2019, it is illegal to enroll a child in schools without proof that they are currently immunised.
Failure to comply with the law can attract a fine of up to $10,000.
The Education Minister said he would seek a review of the process for enrollment.
“I will consult with the Minister of Health, on this ridiculous fee and hopefully they can waive it," Loau said.
"I don’t think this is the right time to impose any fees; maybe that can be applied next school term, but for the time being, we have bigger problems and that is ensuring all the children are immunised before they are enrolled."
Calls to the Minister of Health, Faimalotoa Kika Stowers, were not returned as of press time.
According to a public notice students will not be allowed to enroll in schools this month unless their parents can provide official immunisation booklets.
“Any child with no vaccination record presented during enrollment should not be accepted or enrolled in the school for the academic year 2020,” the notice, signed by the C.E.O. of the Ministry of Education, Sports, and Culture, Afamasaga Dr. Keroline Fuata’I, reads.
“Seek your child’s/children’s vaccination records from the Ministry of Health before enrollment for the new school year.”